Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) has congratulated the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) for initiating a private prosecution against a man who it says used an electric prodder on a calf, in breach of the Rodeo Code of Welfare, at last year's Mid Northern Rodeo.

NZALA says video clearly showed a prodder being used on a calf, which was prohibited by the code.

SAFE's head of campaigns Marianne Macdonald said it was the Ministry for Primary Industries' job to take animal abusers to court, and applauded NZALA for doing so when ministry failed to take the matter seriously.

"We fully support the private prosecution of these people who think it's okay to abuse animals for fun. It's another example of MPI failing in its job to protect animals in rodeos. Where MPI fails, other organisations are stepping up," she said.

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"In addition to this breach of the Rodeo Code, all rodeo events go against New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act since they cause distress to the animals forced to perform.

The cowboys' association recently introduced new 'suggested practices' to make it appear they care about the wellbeing of the animals, but really they're just scrambling to make changes now, as they see the writing is on the wall for an end to rodeo."

This year's rodeo season began on Labour weekend, a horse dying at the second event of the season, in Methven.

"The government's advisers, NAWAC, recently produced a toothless report on rodeo that fails to implement any meaningful changes," Ms Macdonald said.

"Despite admitting that events such as calf roping and steer wrestling cause 'substantial negative impacts' on animals, and that they had serious concerns about the practices, they've not recommended any curbs on blatant bullying of animals.

"We can only hope that the NZALA's private prosecution is successful and that the man responsible for abusing this calf is held to account.

Ultimately, however, SAFE wants an end to government-sanctioned animal abuse, and is calling for a total ban on rodeo.